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Syrian opposition in Riyadh: Assad has to go

Draft resolution of Riyadh meeting says Syrian leader's departure at start of transitional period vital for ending war.

Syrian opposition groups meeting in Saudi Arabia have renewed their demand for the removal of President Bashar al-Assad in a draft resolution obtained by media.

The groups said that a solution to the war in Syria can only be achieved with the departure of Assad at the start of the transitional period - a position held by the Syrian opposition since the start of the war, now in its seventh year.

"The participants agreed that the goal of the political settlement is to establish a state based on the principle of citizenship, which enables the Syrians to draft their constitution without interference and to choose their leaders through free, fair and transparent elections in which the Syrians participate inside and outside Syria under the supervision of the United Nations," the draft reads.

The 140-delegate summit in Riyadh, which kicked off on Wednesday, is expected to be a two-day affair.

The demands made in the draft resolution are a reiteration of the 2012 communique formulated in the first round of negotiations in Geneva, Switzerland.

The communique stipulates that a transitional governing body "could include members of the present government and the opposition and other groups and shall be formed on the basis of mutual consent", but does not make any specific mention as to who exactly from the current government should stay on.

While the Syrian government has said that it will abide with all UN resolutions that confirm the need for a transitional government, the vague language of the communique has made the details of a transition a sticking point in negotiations.

Achieving political transition in the country has long been considered the most challenging part of ongoing diplomatic efforts to end the war that started in 2011 as a peaceful uprising demanding Assad step down, amid widespread uprisings in the Arab world.

The Syrian government has refused to entertain the prospect of Assad stepping down.

'Single negotiating delegation'

Saudi Arabia, a backer of the Syrian opposition, said the aim of the "expanded" conference was to unify the groups in the run-up to the next round of negotiations in Geneva on November 28.

While the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), the largest opposition bloc, is clear with regard to its position on Assad, other opposition groups have a softer stance.

READ MORE: Syria's civil war explained from the beginning

Due to the differences between the groups, they previously refused to enter into negotiations as a single entity.

But according to the draft resolution, the "participants agreed to form a single negotiating delegation in its structure, unified in its positions and reference, with the aim of negotiating with the representatives of the regime ..."

The head of the HNC for the past two years, Riyad Hijab, resigned on Monday in advance of the Riyadh meeting. 

Political analysts close to the Syrian opposition said that Hijab's move was prompted by the attempt to unify the opposition despite stark disagreements between them on the way forward.

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